Kōtuku/White Heron Ardea modesta
Native. Threatened-nationally critical.
While widespread in Australia, the South Pacific and Asia where it is common, there is only one breeding colony in Aotearoa New Zealand and that is at Waitangiroto Nature Reserve in Westland. This was already established when discovered in 1865 and the population is currently thought to be around 200. During the winter these disperse around the country. Individuals are occasionally to be seen at the Estuary.
It is an elegant species with pure white plumage and a bright yellow beak and striking yellow eye. It is a revered species because of its elusiveness that in Māoridom there is a saying "he kōtuku rerenga tahi" which literally means the bird of a single flight or once in a lifetime sighting.
There are several species which Kōtuku could be confused with but at nearly a metre tall, size alone can be a distinguishing feature. The similar but much smaller Little Egret has a black bill.
Diet consists of small fish, crabs, frogs and aquatic invertebrates.